3 Reasons why it’s worth looking at your emotions when it comes to chronic pain


Pain is complex and can vary widely between individuals. When pain lasts longer than 3 months it’s considered as chronic. Chronic pain can influence emotions as can emotions influence chronic pain.

As a senior physiotherapist I have experienced chronic pain both personally and professionally and it is my passion to understand pain and assist those living with it.

I have found physiotherapy is extremely successful at assisting patients recover from injury and certain conditions when acute in nature. To have long term success with those with chronic pain I truly see it a necessity to be looking at the bigger picture of pain and it’s emotional/mental ties. Studies also support the necessity that when it comes to chronic pain often there is more than just an issue with the tissue. In some cases, pain can go on even when the original injury has resolved.

The Emotional Centres Of The Brain Light Up In Those With Chronic Pain

Studies have shown that the brain lights up differently with those who have had pain for a short period of time versus those with chronic pain. Brain imaging has shown that those with chronic pain have activation in the prefrontal, limbic and paralimbic areas of their brain where those with acute pain do not. What this indicates is psychological pain may overtake physical pain as the main contributor to the sensation experienced in those with chronic pain.

Emotions Change How We Perceive Pain

Studies have shown that both cognitive and emotional factors have an important influence on pain perception. When it comes to emotional state there has been evidence supporting that a negative emotional state increases pain whereas a positive emotional state lowers pain.

Anxiety for example stems from an anticipation of a threat and is characterized by hypervigilance and passive defensive responses. Anxiety has been shown to increase pain. Repeated fear experiences can cause anticipatory anxiety which can contribute to persistent pain.

Holding In Emotions & The Link With Pain

People vary in how much they verbally and non-verbally suppress or express their emotions. When people have a desire to express their emotions yet fear the consequence of doing so this is referred to as ambivalence. Several studies have proven that ambivalence is associated with greater pain. Studies have shown this particularly with anger suppression there was a lower pain tolerance and higher pain ratings given.

My Approach with Chronic Pain…

I first hand have experienced chronic pain in my neck and legs during 2015-2016 and I found through listening to what my body was communicating I was able to make positive changes in my life and my pain shifted. My belief is that pain is an indicator and whilst I truly see it beneficial in working with the body at a physical level it’s just as important to work with what the body wants us to acknowledge and balance on a mental and emotional level. I feel unless we address the emotional and mental influences of pain symptoms never truly resolve. My mission is to use the integration of physiotherapy techniques with emotional release and transformation methods to assist others in working with their body both physically and emotionally to shift their pain.

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